Women’s Tennis: Wildcats prepare for top-five ranked Blue Devils


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Alex Chatt readies herself to return a serve. The freshman has won her last three singles matches.

Mike Marut, Reporter


No. 17 Northwestern (1-1) faces another tough test this weekend against No. 4 Duke (2-0),  the third top-20 team it’s faced in three weeks.

Having battled Alabama and Georgia Tech, coach Claire Pollard and her players believe they have gotten good practice against strong teams. Getting into the swing of playing top competition will be important as the Wildcats have an extremely difficult regular season schedule with a combination of Big Ten, SEC and ACC teams. All three conferences cultivate strong tennis programs historically.

“Both our matches this weekend were pretty competitive, ASU more so than Rice a little bit,” sophomore Jillian Rooney said. “Having really tough matches and all of us having to play our hardest plus the more matches we can play at that level (at ASU, Rice and Alabama Invite) are really going to help us through the season.”

Rooney has been playing strong tennis so far this season, posting wins against Georgia Tech, Rice and Arizona State. The sophomore is the only one still in a similar role on the team as last year, Pollard said. Every other player has changed her singles position or joined the doubles squads. The players are growing into their new roles, but still have some work to do before the Cats are a well-oiled machine.

“Slowly, slowly, they’re getting their feet wet in it, it still needs to come quicker,” Pollard said. “Some things just take time; you wish they didn’t, but they do.”

The Blue Devils won both their games in their ITA Kickoff Weekend by blanking their opponents 4-0. All Duke wins have come against teams that did not break into the top 50, whereas the matches NU has fought in have all been against opponents in the top 50. Because of the Cats’ preparation through past games and practice, Pollard and the players feel they have a shot at upsetting the Blue Devils.

“Confidence comes through preparation,” Pollard said. “We’re preparing well, preparing better. Our kids need to play those roles to really get it. It’s just going to take some time for that to happen.”

Despite the loss on Saturday to Arizona State, NU was able to feel more confident at the end of the weekend because of the convincing win over Rice on Sunday. To have a chance against Duke, the win on Sunday was necessary. Because all the players are in different roles, the quicker they can get more comfortable in them, the better. With a higher level of confidence overall, the team can play more relaxed and because of that, have a clear mind to focus on the opponent.

“Going in there with a … hunger to beat a top team like (Duke), the past two teams we played have both been really good teams,” freshman Erin Larner, who won the first Big Ten Player of the Week award of the season, said.

With a raised level of confidence and a couple weeks experience under their belt, the Cats are ready to compete at an even higher level than last weekend.

“Duke is renowned to be quite strong, but any team is beatable,” junior Alicia Barnett said. “We’re just going to go out and play. We’re getting better and better. Anything can happen.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @mikeonthemic93